The Dutch horticultural industry wants to play a successful role internationally in creating an innovative and sustainable sector. That makes continuous development essential. The Sustainable Talent Development research group at THUAS and the research group HRM and Personal Entrepreneurship at Inholland University of Applied Sciences collaborated on three research projects to study how learning and development can make a sustainable contribution to the ambitions of Dutch horticulture.  

Greenport Project 1: Sustainable learning communities: Harvesting in the Greenport West-Holland 

Public and private parties increasingly use collaborative efforts like learning communities to combine their strengths. Interaction and knowledge sharing between multiple parties often leads to innovative solutions. However, practice shows that learning communities often struggle to further develop their collaboration. The learning communities ‘burn out’ despite there being relevant, innovative challenges. The researchers of the Sustainable Talent Development research group at THUAS and the research group HRM and Personal Entrepreneurship at Inholland University of Applied Sciences took this challenge found in practice and created the tool Seeds of innovation in c-creation with professionals from the horticultural industry.  

Success factors with tips 

Seeds of innovation is a digital tool for participants of learning communities. The tool describes 12 success factors (including tips) for increasing the sustainability of the collaboration and the implementation of the outcomes. The 12 success factors are the result of a research into five learning communities in the industry. The tips help to open up the discussion about success factors that still need attention. Alongside the digital tool, there is a poster that includes the success factors, that can be used in in-person meetings.   

Project results 

Design of the Seeds of Innovation tool 

Walk through with an explanation of all the functionalities (pdf in Dutch) 

Document with the 12 success factors, findings and tips (pdf in Dutch) – also included in the tool 

Conference paper: Sjoer, E., Van Harn, R., & Biemans, P. (2020) Sustaining Professional Learning Communities. In: Engaging Engineering Education. Proceedings of The 48th SEFI Annual Conference. Enschede, University of Twente, 20-24 September, 1128-1136. 

Report Sustainable Learning Communities: Harvesting in the Greenport (pfd in Dutch) 

Greenport Project 2: Jobs in transition 

Change in the horticultural industry also means that the profile of jobs and positions, that have been similar for generations, undergo changes. In the project ‘Job profiles in transition’, the research group has developed new visualizations of these job profiles. The results of this research van be used to improve recruitment, career policies and strategic personnel management. Educational programs at THUAS can apply the new job profiles in the recruitment of students and for the adjustment of current curricula.  


The questions that were central in this project were: 

What can the current, realistic and inspiring job profile visualizations look like? 

How can these add to the improvement of the image of the Greenport and the development of HRM? 

In collaboration with companies in the industry, researchers of THUAS and Inholland University of Applied Sciences determined and studied 11 high-impact positions by conducting interviews. The researchers considered professional activities, passion and professional pride, as well as future developments (amongst others in technology and sustainability). On the basis of these positions, job profile visualizations were created. These are, based on a qualitative design focused approach, created in both a visual and a narrative way. The researchers consider jobs and functions holistically and stress other aspects than a classical HRM focus usually considers: They look beyond the tasks and competencies. Passion and drive play an important role.  

Finally, all the job profile visualizations were validated with the participating companies and in the field of HRM, the connection with education was made.  

Project results 

Presentation: Working in Horticulture: (too) unknown & unloved (in Dutch) 

Greenport project 3: Towards a learning environment for lifelong development 

The horticultural industry wants to develop into a future proof, sustainable and circular industry. Do accomplish that goal, a strong learning culture is needed. Additionally, lifelong development has to be possible for all employees in the industry. 

In the context of the SLIM-grant of the ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, multiple parties have collaborated on this third Greenport project. Two research groups, from THUAS and Inholland University of Applied Sciences, have executed action research in collaboration with companies and educators in the horticultural cluster Greenport West-Holland. 

Action research 

During the action research, two case study companies have actively worked on the learning culture: Koppert and Duijvestijn Tomatoes. My means of various meetings and activities, the two companies have worked on their own questions, in co-creation with a flexible shell of educators. This resulted in a development plan for a traineeship and a leadership development track. The two case study companies have made practical steps towards a learning environment.  

The outcomes of this research are compiled in the report. Additionally, workshop templates were developed. These can be used by other companies in the industry to actively work (together) on their learning culture.  

Project results 

Report (in Dutch) 

Workshop templates (in Dutch) 



Sjoerd Dobbinga

Faculteit Business Finance & Marketing


dr. Ellen Sjoer

Lector Duurzame Talentontwikkeling

Go to dr. Ellen Sjoer